Sunday, May 22, 2011

More on old "Grand Manan"

As I noted yesterday, my feature this week is a print of my newest painting, the old ferry "Grand Manan", depicted coming around Swallowtail just before she arrives at North Head.  I enjoyed painting a lively sea here, with the afternoon sun shining on the waves and foam and the reflection of the summer sky on the back sides of the waves.

Pressed back into service last week to replace the "Grand Manan V" sent away for repairs, when the old "black boat" came back to her North Head home, someone commented that it was great to see her coming around Swallowtail with "a bone in her teeth".  (For readers on the mainland, "a bone in her teeth" refers to the wave pushed ahead of the bow as the ship churns through the water).  This was a characteristic of the old "Grand Manan" and you will note that my painting shows "a bone in her teeth".

The newer "Grand Manan V" makes no such fuss going through the water.  With a bulbous bow down below the surface, she cuts through the water more cleanly, making less wake, using less power (and fuel) and increasing the hull speed.  This may be more efficient, but the old black boat just looks like she is having more fun!

When the "Grand Manan" arrived in October, 1965, the wharf for her in Blacks Harbour was not yet finished, in fact it wasn't ready until the following spring.  So, for that first winter, you had to have your car hoisted out of the ship in St. Andrews.

You may recall the big hatch on the stern deck of the "Grand Manan".  At the dock, the hatch was removed and the cable lowered down through the gaping hole to the vehicle deck.  With slings on the wheels, your car was lifted up through this hatch, swung over with a boom and landed on the wharf.  Everyone was pretty glad to see the Blacks Harbour terminal completed in the spring of 1966, and the luxury of being able to drive on and drive off the ferry.  And, of course, that ushered in something new for the ferry service: trucking.

The old "Grand Manan" was remarkably free of mishap.  But there was one mishap that may have been a blessing when we look back on it.  How many people remember the fire in the wheelhouse of the "Grand Manan" in January, 1976?

The ferry had to be taken to the drydock in Saint John for repairs. The "Capelco" came on to carry a few passengers, but no cars could come or go while the ferry was away in drydock.  So where was the blessing?  When the Groundhog Gale struck Grand Manan on February 2, 1976, our most severe storm of the 20th Century, our ferry was safely tucked away in drydock and, of course, came through the storm completely unharmed.  Suppose instead, she had been tied up at North Head; would she have survived the great Groundhog Gale? 

We will never know the answer to that one, but that wheelhouse fire, as inconvenient as it was at the time, just may have allowed us to have another 35 years of faithful service from the old "black boat".

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Old ferry "Grand Manan"

With the 46-year veteran ferry "Grand Manan" being recalled for service while the regular ferry is being repaired, this seems like a good time to feature a print of my recent painting of the old "Grand Manan"

The "Grand Manan" was built  in Saint John in 1965, put into service in October that year.  She was the main ferry from 1965 until 1990 when the "Grand Manan V" was put into service.  After that she has been the supplementary vessel, adding service during the summer and during refit of the regular vessel.

The "black boat" as she is called locally, has very limited capacity to handle traffic, especially trucks, so the Island is attempting to cope with a difficult situation.  Nevertheless, the faithful old ship can at least provide us with some essential contact.

The painting itself has never been displayed publicly, and will be featured in my show at the Grand Manan Art Gallery which opens on June 4.  So if you would like a framed print, I will be happy to reserve one for you for delivery after the June 4 show opening.

Friday, May 20, 2011

More Fog

More Fog.  That pretty much sums up our weather here at Our Cove these days.  And it also aptly applies to "behind the art" for my painting of a sailing ship easing across a fog-covered sea, a painting entitled "Fog".

Fog is intriguing and challenging to paint.  The first thing about painting fog, is that it really accentuates atmospheric perspective: things close up have normal contrast, things in the distance have reduced contrast.  Normal contrast in the waves in the foreground is less and less as you move away from the foreground and gradually the contrast disappears in the fog, as can be noted in the close-up of the stern of the sailing ship and the water in foreground and back by the stern:

The hull of the sailing ship also shows this, with more contrast at the bow, which is nearer, and very little contrast between the ship and the sea or sky at the stern, which is all but lost in the fog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This week's feature print (considering the weather recently, seems somehow appropriate) is a reproduction of my painting which is simply titled "Fog".

The painting depicts a sailing ship of over a hundred years ago, creeping along through the fog.  Several men stand on the bow peering into the fog, straining to see any hazards that might be hidden in the fog ahead; perhaps a schooner fishing, perhaps a reef silently lurking in the calm water ahead

Captains of sailing ships navigated in fog by "dead reckoning", computing their estimated location by speed through the water (measured by a "taffrail log") and time elapsed as noted on the chronometer in the captain's cabin.  They made allowances for drift in tidal current, but all of this was quite imprecise, and many sailing ships found themselves stranded on reefs in the fog, off in the dead reckoning.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More on Gannet Rock Lighthouse

This week's feature painting is Gannet Rock Lighthouse in an afternoon sou'wester.  This painting is one of my favorites, partly because I feel an attachment to the lighthouse and also because I like the open water that surrounds Gannet Rock

If you are observant, you will notice that the lighthouse is featured on the avatar for From Our Cove, and the water in the painting is featured in the banner for the blog.

But Gannet Rock is special for another reason: my great-great-grandfather, Walter B. McLaughlin, was the light keeper there for many, many years, starting as assistant keeper on April 1, 1845, and becoming head keeper on April 1,1853.  He remained there until January 1,1880, when he transferred to the newly built lighthouse at Southwest Head, on Grand Manan Island.

Walter B. McLaughlin was a thoughtful and conscientious man, well read and well respected.  He wrote daily in his journals, noting the weather and the comings and goings of sailing ships in an out of the Bay of Fundy.  When ships were wrecked among the Murr Ledges and other treacherous reefs off Grand Manan, he described what he saw from his lighthouse vantage point.  He took great pains to describe the wind direction, weather conditions and what he saw.

But other entries were tantalizing in their brevity.  His entry for Monday, May 15, 1854, simply stated: "This day a wedding on the Rock".  He lived on Gannet Rock with his wife, Clarinda, and raised children there until they were old enough to attend school on Grand Manan.

In October, 1871, along with other notes of weather and shipping, he noted "we could smell soot burning or old houses".  Over the next several days, he kept noting the smell of burning buildings, and on October 11, he noted "I am of the opinion that some large city such as New York or Boston is burnt."  When his supply boat came a week later, on October 18, he wrote: "The boat came today and brought news of the burning of Chicago and this explains the unusual odor of burning buildings we have smelt a few days past."

Indeed, I spent many enjoyable hours reading through and making notes from the daily journals of Walter B. McLaughlin, journals now housed in the Grand Manan Musuem.  And so, that's one reason why I like Gannet Rock and enjoyed painting this quintessential lighthouse in the open Bay of Fundy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gannet Rock Lighthouse, Bay of Fundy

This week Bill Clinton spoke to a large crowd in Fredericton, and in his remarks he acknowledged the great Bay of Fundy.  While his understanding of the giant tides leaves a little room for further education, his broaching the topic of Fundy, nevertheless, adds to growing interest in our great natural wonder.

Accordingly, this week's feature for "From Our Cove" is a framed print of my painting of the grand old sentinel at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, Gannet Rock Lighthouse:

The original lighthouse was built in 1832, the one depicted in this painting many years later. 

I painted the lighthouse as it was when still manned.  Since being fully automated, some buildings have been removed.  This lonely outpost, 8 miles off Grand Manan Island, really has a sense of the open sea all about it, and as a "sentinel", the lighthouse has stood guard at the centre of the entrance to the Bay of Fundy, its powerful light warning ships and guiding them for close to two centuries.